For whatever reason, I feel like there’s a stigma about playing games on certain difficulties. I typically play games on normal, though I’ve played the occasional game on hard, and a handful of games on easy (I usually reserve this for when the control scheme, or the combat, is lacking). I’ve written a little about this before, but today I was thinking about how I prefer to play older games from previous generations.
For games from the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, I’m still good with normal. I like to see how the game was, more or less, intended to be played. I like to see what the balance is.
For even older games from prior generations, I’ve often struggled with the controls. I’ve mentioned before that there is a huge gap in my gaming history which covers many consoles (e.g.: PS1, PS2) and, because of that, I tend to struggle with the controls from some games of that era.
The first game I played with tank controls was the original Resident Evil. That was an experience. I spent a lot of the early parts of the game running into walls and comically not going in the direction I wanted to go. For someone like myself who wasn’t used to that control scheme, it was a bit of a struggle to “unlearn” modern controls and try to adapt to the standard for the time.
I’d always wanted to play through the Silent Hill series (something I still want to do), so when I started on the first one, I didn’t really know what to expect.
I set it to normal and I blew it. I ended up getting stuck running around the streets trying to figure out where I was going and how to fight.
It was a struggle.
I eventually got killed enough that I realized I was going to have to either get a lot better quickly (possible, but unlikely), or start the game over on easy.
I ended up putting it down and never going back to it. That was a couple of years ago.
I have every intention of picking it back up and, this time, setting it to easy so I can experience the story. I don’t think there is any shame in altering the difficulty if it means I get to experience the game, and not just the game over screen.
What really got me thinking about this was a Let’s Play I’ve been watching on Game Informer. Their Super Replay of Resident Evil 4 has me wanting to finally actually play that game (I’ve wanted to for a long, long time) for myself. I recently acquired it for PS4, and I’m super excited to see it through. But I recall playing the first area years ago (I can’t even recall which system I was playing it on), and struggling a bit with the controls. So I decided, preemptively, that if it has options for difficulty settings, I’m going with easy all the way. The game intrigues me and I can’t wait to see the story, but I don’t want to be constantly worried about biting it. Seeing a Resident Evil expert play the game and seeing some of the high tension scenarios stop even him in his tracks has me feeling just fine with that call.
I’ve only ever played a few contemporary games on easy, but I somehow still feel like that makes me, I don’t know, less something. I don’t think I’m the very best at games, but I’m certainly not the worst, either. Ultimately, I want to have those experiences, and if setting a game to easy facilitates that, then that’s okay with me. I’d hate to miss out just because I’m not familiar with tank controls, or something similar.
How do you feel about difficulty settings? Do you feel strange about changing a game to an easier setting? Or do you like to play games on hard from the start for an added challenge? How do you approach difficulty settings?
My go to difficulty is definitely normal,on subsequent playthroughs I usually up the difficulty.
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That sounds reasonable!
Difficulty settings are probably the thing I spend the least amount of time thinking about concerning video games. I just play on the default and suffer or cruise through depending on how hard that is for me. Honestly, that probably leads to some experiences that could be more rewarding or less frustrating if it ever occurred to me to modify the difficulty but it’s just like a mental blind spot I guess.
If I had a really great time with it, and a post-credits view of the trophy list looks reasonably doable for the amount of additional time I’m willing to commit, I’ll dive back in. And that often involves playing on higher difficulties.
There definitely are many stigmas in gaming and this is certainly one of them. And just like the rest, they should go away. It is a great thing to take pride in yourself for mastering a game at a high difficulty level, but that’s where it should end. Things like negatively judging others for simply playing a game the way they enjoy it when it’s in a different way than you enjoy it are what damage the inclusion that should only permeate a shared hobby.
While enjoying video games and other “nerd things” has never been more widely acceptable than it is today, most of us can remember when it was much less so. It boggles my mind that people who have likely been looked down on by the “cool kids” at one time or another for their “dorky” hobbies would do the same to fellow gamers for any reason. We should play the games we like and we should play them the way we enjoy them most without judging others or judging ourselves, there’s nothing positive in it.
Sorry for the rant, I’ve become increasingly irritated lately with people thinking they are better than others over matters that are purely subjective.
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I understand; the internet can be a great place, but also a really frustrating one at times. I don’t understand why anyone would try to make another person feel badly in regards to something they are passionate about. It just makes no sense to me. If altering something makes something else more enjoyable, then more power to the alterer (provided no one is hurt in that process).
Judging others never ends well (unless it’s done by an actual judge and jury, and sometimes even then…), and it makes everyone miserable.
I like that to you, the difficulty settings are a non-issue!
Great article, and for me, difficulty levels are often just an artificial way for designers to ramp up the challenge. Sounds obvious, but think of great design in games that don’t require you to fiddle with the difficulty settings – Zelda, Super Mario 64, etc.
Those games were so well-designed that “difficulty” becomes a question of developing your own skills and strategies and reflexes, but whether a bad guy jumps from “easy-to-beat” to “near-invulnerable-bullet-sponge” with the change of a setting. That always felt cheap to me.
Difficulty levels in soccer games are, for me, the worst offender. The opposing team should have strengths and weaknesses that feel natural, real – irrespective of what a setting says!
Anyway – I completed Resident Evil 4 on Normal, but if there’s an Easy mode (I understand Easy is not available on all versions), then I would have picked that – happily! You’ll see what I mean!
I don’t have the time to spend on games these days, so I’m at peace with my decision to go the easy route. Most games nowadays are forgiving in their design so as not to turn away larger audiences, so that actually helps.
I went back to a Mega Man game on the Game Boy recently – brutal. How we finished these things back in the day is beyond me now.
Should read: “Those games were so well-designed that “difficulty” becomes a question of developing your own skills and strategies and reflexes, NOT whether a bad guy jumps from “easy-to-beat” to “near-invulnerable-bullet-sponge” with the change of a setting. That always felt cheap to me.”
I knew what you meant. :)
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I quite agree. In many cases I feel like they are arbitrarily difficult. With Borderlands 2 and Ultimate Vault Hunter mode, the enemies were just ridiculous with difficulty. More hit points, more shields, super fast health regeneration, and who knows what else. It was still possible to play it, but you had to start planning. Certain areas were just ridiculous and not in a fun, over the top way.
I will have to take your word on the soccer games! I am terribly unfamiliar with sports games!
If I can, I definitely plan to play RE4 on easy. I want to see the story but I don’t want to tear my hair out to do it.
Oh gosh, some of those early platformers are BRUTAL. Mega Man especially.
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I agree that difficulty is a nonfiction in most cases. I’m a few games, I up the difficulty. Certain games, I too play on easy. Difficulty doesn’t make or break a game, imho! Certain games “difficulty” should be done away with. Thoughts?
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I don’t think we will ever see difficulty settings completely disappear. A lot of games rely on them for new game plus scenarios.
For me, I think the ability to alter the difficulty mid-game is something I’d always like to be able to do. I also get a little disappointed that super intriguing games like Bloodborne may forever be lost to me because I don’t go in for super punishing difficulty.
But I agree, difficulty doesn’t make or break a game. I just want everyone to be able to play, you know?